Commentary

Island Politics:  The Great Divide

By W. Knox Richardson

Over the last few years, the party that has dominated island politics since statehood may have lost some ground.  Not so much at the polls, but in the hearts and minds of the people.  Historically, Democrats have been the voice of people who are disenfranchisedóbe they economic, social or ethic minorities, which, when combined, afford the party a decisive majority in the state legislature.  (And if truth be told, at the local, so-called non-partisan, city and country elective offices, too.)

Lately, though, perhaps due to the legacy of 9/11, the wars in West Asia and the seemingly popular positions of the President Bush, Democrats around the nation have simply lost some steam in their quest to serve those who lack the resources to hone in on the American Dream.  Has the bubble burst for the left side of aisle?  Is there no longer a grand role for those who seek to equalize societyís great wealth and ensure a square, if not fair, deal at the polls and beyond?

Perhaps the Democratsí problems are as much a result of their own behaviors than the policies of the right wing.  The Demos have followed a dangerous path of divisiveness by alienating moderate and conservative traditional democratic voters long before Bush took office by insisting and proclaiming their points of view as though divined from on high, demanding that everyone accept their politics or live in fear of being labeled bigots, Birchers or worse, partisans.

That's right, partisans Ė people who have made up their minds and wonít change them  -- even when confronted with a populist argument that may sound good but often fails to live up to its billing.  According to most liberal pundits, partisanship is what is wrong with Republicans.  How dare they maintain a perspective that differs from those of the Democrats?  That is simply fat headed and stupid, they say. And this comes from the party of inclusiveness and tolerance.

As the demos lose some steam, they have more than made up for it with an over-abundance of hot air by name-calling, foot-dragging and a self-styled stubbornness that if not mean-spirited is just as much partisan as the politics they decry from across the hall.  For decades, both here and in Washington, Democrats viewed themselves as the noble party in power and benignly portrayed Republicans as their worthy and loyal opposition, good friends all.  Now, though, the liberal whining is much louder than any noise the GOP ever made, and such may be the source of discontent in the psyche of life-long Democrats Ė such as myself Ė who are continually embarrassed by the antics of the leadership of my once proud party of Harry S Truman and Lyndon Johnson.  And the closer the vote, it seems, the meaner the rhetoric.

Democrats need to reinvent themselves in the image of a popular cause that makes sense and is consistent in both theory and practice.  We canít support the troops on one hand and disavow their cause on the other. We canít support abortion one minute and then decry abstinence the next.  We canít argue for better homeland security and in the same breath demand due process for terrorists.  And we canít argue for greater gun control and then demand the police protect us because we donít have the means to protect ourselves.  And since when is God in our lives, that is outside of the four walls of church, a bad thing? 

If Democrats want to regain their high-ground position as the friend of the poor and downtrodden masses, they should first rediscover themselves, their ideals and beliefs before going off half-cocked and delivering unto their opponents the rest of the party.  They must become comfortable in their role as the loyal opposition before attempting to recapture the hearts or engage the minds of the people they claim to represent.  In the words, the party must grow up and act its age.  Or not.  Itís up to them.

W. Knox Richardson is the editor and publisher of the Oahu Island News.